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Introducing Volcano Mount Kaimon (Kaimondake)

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  • Location: Coventry,Warwickshire
  • Location: Coventry,Warwickshire

My intention is to produce a series of articles (depending on interest) which introduces ideas about volcanic and earthquake activity. I want to go slightly off the beaten track to explore oddities, volcano hazards, analysis methods, Wonders and Mankind’s impacts. Keep in mind I am not expert (corrections gratefully received), but hopefully these will at least give a flavour of some different places in the world and provide a few minutes escape from people’s troubles.

Introducing Volcano Mount Kaimon (Kaimondake)

Reason for Interest
  A volcano less than 4000 years old with a typical repose time of 400 years which has not erupted for 1000 years suggests a volcano that needs close watching. At the base of the volcano is the Ibusuki City with a population of nearly 50,000 makes it worthy of attention.

The Setting
Kyushu is the third largest island of Japan's five main islands and the most southerly of the four largest islands. The Satsuma Peninsula is a peninsula which projects south from the southwest part of Kyushu Island. To the west lies the East China Sea, while to the east it faces the Osumi Peninsula across Kagoshima Bay. Near the southern tip of the Peninsula is the 924-metre-high mount Kaimon  and the hot springs of Ibusuki Onsen

The submerged 15 x 25 km Ata caldera under Kagoshima Bay is one of several large calderas in southern Kyushu. The Ata Caldera forms the bottom section of Kagoshima Bay and also the SE tip of Satsuma Peninsula. Within the perimeter of Ata Caldera are numerous more recent volcanic features including Mount Kaimon in the western corner of the caldera which covered the entire peninsula in scoria about 4000 years ago.



  About 5000 years ago, the 4x3km Ikeda Caldera was formed in the NW corner of Ata Caldera by a powerful explosive eruption. Lake Ikeda is the biggest volcanic lake in Kyushu with a circumference of 15km. The lake itself has a depth of over 200m and is also home to a unique species of giant eel which can grow up to 2m long and weigh up to 5kg. These eels are perhaps the inspiration for the legend of Isshii, the monster of the lake.




Ibusuki at the southern tip of Kagoshima is famous for its sunamushi, or sand bathing. Volcanic hot springs line the coast of Ibusuki near to Mount Kaimon, warming the sands to 50-55 degrees Celsius. To experience a sand bath, you wear a light cotton yukata, and lie a shallow depression in the beach. An attendant will protect your face with a towel and shovel the warm sand over you until you’re buried up to your neck in the black sand, with only your head exposed to the air. After ten minutes or so, you emerge, warm and relaxed. 



The Flower Park Kagoshima is located near the southern tip of the Satsuma Peninsula, about a kilometer north of Cape Nagasakibana and below Mount Kaimon. The Flower Park claims to be the largest flower theme park in Japan with about half a million plants of more than 2400 different varieties. In addition to typical local flowers, there are other species from tropical regions all over the world, including Brazil, Australia and South Africa.


The Kaimon golf course lies at the foot of the Mount Kaimon volcano at the southernmost point of Satsuma peninsula and utilizes natural geographical features. The course is noted for 'Kaimon Oroshi', the gust of wind blowing down the Kaimon Mountain and 'Umikaze', the sea wind blowing up from the ocean making a relatively difficult course to play.

A big sand-craft event is held every spring on Fukiagehama Beach, one of the three largest sand dunes of Japan. Many teams from home and abroad participate to create original works.



The Tectonic environment

The Kagoshima rift is located in southern Kyushu Japan and includes Kagoshima Bay. Flora and fauna is representative of subtropical oceanic areas. The rift system developed behind the volcanic front of the Ryuku Arc and is about 30km wide. The southern part extends through Kagoshima Bay and accommodates five major calderas.



About 1 million years ago crustal stresses changed from compression to extension. Crustal faults produced by the rapid crustal extension combined with melt from the subducted Phillipine Sea Plate have allowed large amounts of Magma to rise. This has lead to the formation of the Kakuto ,Aira ,Norrthern Ata ,Southern Ata and Kikai calderas.

Northern Ata caldera  is 16 km by 12 km in dimension and is located 200 m below sea level. This caldera is presumed to have formed 110 ka by an explosive eruption. Southern Ata caldera is 24 km by 14 km in dimension and is presumed to have formed 240 ka by explosive eruption. Subsequent eruptions occurred along the northwestern area of the presumed caldera. These included formation of the Ibusuki volcano about 30 ka, the Ikedako caldera and Kaimondake volcano.

The Volcano

Kaimondake (Mount Kaimon) is nicknamed the “Fuji of Kyushu” for its similarity in shape and symmetry to Japan’s most famous peak, although it’s just a quarter of its size standing at 934 m (3031, ft). Located at the southernmost tip of Satsuma Peninsula it is small stratovolcano. The summit crater, which is named Hachikubo, had been thought to be a collapse crater, but it was geologically proved to be a large explosion crater which was successively enlarged during an eruption.



A mountain path spirals up from the foot of the mountain, such that you can enjoy the scenery from a variety of angles. At the foot is the oldest herb farm in Japan, Kaimon Sanroku Koen Ryoen. Here, you can enjoy cooking using herbs from the farm. 

At the foot of Mount Kaimon, there are two tunnels feared as the spookiest spots in Kagoshima Prefecture. There is no lighting system in the tunnels except for the holes in the ceiling at intervals to let through natural light. They are not one-way but crossing paths is extremely difficult as the roads are too narrow. The atmosphere is ominous and sinister even in daytime.

A large number of spooky phenomenon have been reported by the drivers : the backseat of the car suddenly got wet; some face-like figure stuck out from the ventilation hole; a man in a military uniform was walking with blood splatters all over his body. If you happen to look at a female face dangling from a ceiling hole, there will be a little chance that you can safely go out of the tunnels.


Past Eruptions

Eruptive activity began at Kaimondake approximately 4,400 years ago with an initial eruption in a shallow sea area. Eruptions occurred repeatedly, emitting lava, and it is postulated that approximately 2,500 years ago a volcanic edifice roughly the same size as the present one had been formed. Significant
amounts of volcanic material were discharged in the volcanic activity approximately 1,500 and 2,000 years ago, greatly contributing to the formation of the stratovolcano. After this, during the historical era, the eruptions in 874 and 885 greatly changed the topography of the summit area, and towards the end of the eruptions, a lava dome was formed inside the crater.

 Kaimondake last erupted in the Heian period about 1,150 years ago. The eruptions of the Heian period occurred in year 16 of the Jogan era (874 AD) and the first year of Nin-na era (885 AD). The houses and farmland of the Hashimuregawa and the Shikiryo archaeological sites located in Ibusuki city were significantly damaged by the eruption of Kaimondake volcano. 


Perhaps it is the shape or the haunted tunnels that caught my attention. More likely it is that this is young volcano that has been eerily quiet in a quieter part of Japan that concerns me.


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